Apprenticeships in Scotland

Emma Knowles, Editor
December, 2019

You might already have an idea of what apprenticeships are and the benefits they offer, but do you know about the specific opportunities available to those in Scotland?

Apprenticeships provide young people with the opportunity to study towards a nationally recognised qualification while gaining hands-on experience of the industry through on-the-job training.

In Scotland, there are three types of apprenticeship:

  • the Modern Apprenticeship, aimed at people aged 16 and over
  • the Graduate Level Apprenticeship, allowing apprentices to take their studies up to Masters level
  • the Foundation Apprenticeship, targeting secondary school pupils to equip them with workplace experience while completing their National 5s and Highers.

See the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) for an idea of how Scottish apprenticeship qualifications compare with other Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs).

Modern Apprenticeships

With 91% of candidates remaining in work six months after becoming qualified, and as many as 37,000 young people already on the pathway, it's clear to see that Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on Scotland's workforce.

These apprenticeships are a viable alternative to university, providing the option for candidates to gain hands-on experience while earning a wage and studying towards an industry-relevant qualification. 96% of Scottish employers say workers with an apprenticeship background perform better on the job than those without this head start.

There are currently around 25,000 MA starters every year across more than 80 employment frameworks, with opportunities available in a range of sectors such as:

  • accounting
  • business administration
  • construction
  • finance
  • healthcare
  • IT
  • retail.

You're eligible to start an MA once you've reached the Scottish statutory minimum school leaving age, which for the majority is 16. The specific qualifications you'll need will vary depending on your employer and apprenticeship, although most will ask for three or more National 4s (or Standard Grades at general level, if you obtained your qualifications before the switch in 2014). If you have further qualifications or skills in a specialist field, you may be able to begin at a higher level.

On an MA, you'll be paid for the work you're doing towards becoming qualified. MA candidates can expect to receive the apprentice wage, which as of April 2017 is as follows:

  • If you're under 19, and/or in the first year of your MA, you're entitled to £3.50 per hour.
  • As you advance into second year, you'll receive £5.55 per hour if you're aged 18-20, £6.95 per hour if you fall into the 21-24 age bracket or the National Living Wage of £7.20 if you're 25 and over.

Visit My World of Work to discover the range of MAs currently available, and begin your search for an opportunity on Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

Graduate Level Apprenticeships

Graduate Level Apprenticeships (GLAs) are the more advanced branch of the Scottish apprenticeship family, offering work-based learning and study up to Masters level.

Employers and higher education institutions collaborate to shape GLAs around the needs of the industry. Because of this, you can be sure that everything you'll learn and practice while becoming qualified is directly relevant to boosting your career prospects.

Nine Scottish colleges and universities will deliver Graduate Level Apprenticeships by the end of 2017. They're currently only offered in the IT, digital, civil engineering and engineering industries, but this is set to extend throughout 2018 to include opportunities with business management, cyber security and additional engineering employers.

As a GLA candidate, you'll be considered an employee of the company you're working for, spending only on average one day a week at university or college. You won't be eligible for government funding from the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), but your course fees will be paid by your employer and you'll receive a monthly wage in line with the national apprentice wage (see above).

To be eligible for a Graduate Level Apprenticeship, you'll need to prove that:

  • you're a resident of Scotland
  • the premises you work in is located in Scotland
  • you have the right to live and work in Scotland
  • you're over the age of 16, although some workplaces may impose a minimum age of 18 due to health and safety regulations.

There is no upper age limit for enrolling on a Graduate Level Apprenticeship. You'll still be eligible if you already have a degree, or if you're already in employment - talk to your employer about the opportunities available to you.

Visit SDS to find the latest GLA vacancies.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Scottish students now have the opportunity to embark on a Foundation Apprenticeship (FA) while still at school. Taken over two years, typically beginning in S5, pupils take time out from the classroom to gain workplace experience and make progress towards an SCQF-recognised qualification. Pupils who study for an FA do so alongside their National 5s and Highers (equivalent to GCSEs and AS-levels), meaning they leave school with a well-rounded and valuable skillset.

FAs are currently offered in eight fields, including:

  • creative and digital media
  • financial services
  • social services and healthcare
  • software development.

Some of Scotland's largest employers offer FAs, such as Network Rail and the NHS.

On completion of an FA, students are well-placed to advance to the next stage of their career - whether that's enrolling on an MA, heading straight into the world of work or applying for further education. Several Scottish universities, including Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Glasgow, currently accept FAs as an entry requirement onto some courses.

Find out more

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